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More Water-saving Steps
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The heat wave that has been hanging over southwest China's Sichuan Province and Chongqing Municipality for a month has inflicted severe drought on this traditionally wet area, through which numerous rivers flow.

The fact that more than 3 million residents there have difficulty obtaining enough drinking water again tolls the alarm bell about the pressing task of building up a water-saving mechanism and cultivating awareness of water efficiency among all residents.
Zhai Haohui, vice-minister of water resources, was quoted by the Beijing News as saying on Monday that more than 100 cities are suffering from severe water shortages.

Inadequate awareness for water conservation in the economic development and urbanization process has aggravated the already prominent water shortages, the vice-minister said. So a mechanism must be established to make it compulsory for construction planners and every citizen to take efficient water use into consideration.

In the city of Zhangye in northwest China's Gansu Province, where water shortage has become a prominent bottleneck and even affected the biological environment in a downstream area of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, water coupons have been used to encourage residents to save on water. The extra coupons residents have saved can be traded on the market and the water management unit will buy back un-traded coupons for as much as 120 percent of the price residents paid for them.

This is a truly good method to cultivate water conservation awareness among residents.

The vice-minister said there is no doubt the water price will rise because a reasonable water price should comprise the costs of providing the running water, tapping the water resources and treating the sewage.

Citizens ought to pay more money for the water they use. The more water they use, the more money they pay. So should they for the cost of treating the wastewater they produce and the cost of building facilities for exploring water resources.

But they also need transparency for the money collected from their water bills. They need to be told that the fees they have paid for treating the wastewater have indeed been used for that purpose and the money to build facilities for the more efficient use of water resources has really been used in that area.

If the coupon system or other water saving mechanisms could be popularized in more cities and the use of money from the water bills made transparent to citizens, we have reason to believe that the water shortage situation could be changed for the better.

(China Daily August 17, 2006)

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